Everything about suspension is up in the air, right? Wrong! There are a lot of hard facts you need to know about suspension before deciding to raise or lower yours. Read on to check out the advantages and disadvantages of lowering your suspension (we’ll look at raising your suspension, too).
Bringing your vehicle closer to the ground results in less air traveling underneath your car, which is good for reducing wind drag. While lowriders look amazing and come with some performance improvements, there are also some negatives to look out for (including the potential for significant detriments to performance).
If you go the lowered suspension route, keep in mind that California law prohibits any part of the car frame from being below the lowest point on your wheel’s rim. Don’t ride too low!
The major advantage of lowering your suspension is an improvement in aerodynamics. With less air underneath your vehicle, wind drag is reduced, which leads to increased speed and acceleration. Some low-riding vehicle owners also report improved gas mileage, but your mileage on the road may vary.
You’ll also notice your ability to feel the road is increased. Different pavements and terrain will be more noticeable underneath you as more vibrations from surface imperfections travel up through the steering wheel. If you want to get in tune with your car, this is a good way to go.
With the vehicle’s center of gravity lowered, sharp turns will result in reduced leaning. Keeping your vehicle level on tight turns gives you greater control and lets your car settle into a turn faster. This goes hand-in-hand with a reduced risk of rollover when cornering, which is always a great thing to reduce.
You’re also improving handling and traction on the road, which results in better all-around responsiveness. Your car’s handling, grip at speed, and stability are all improved when you lower your suspension. With lowered suspension comes stiffer springs and less weight transfer upon hitting the gas or slamming on the brakes. This translates to speedier acceleration and the ability to make sharper stops.
The first disadvantage comes from an improperly lowered vehicle or a vehicle that’s lowered too far. Lowering a car too much increases wind drag instead of reducing it. If you drop your vehicle the right amount, the increased road feel we mentioned earlier leads to less ride comfort. Your closeness to the pavement results in feeling more bumps and potholes—and the ride will be louder, too.
It’s difficult to lower your suspension perfectly, so it’s likely that your vehicle won’t be properly aligned. This leads to uneven or accelerated tire wear, meaning you could be on the hook for new tires sooner than you expect.
The closer your vehicle gets to the ground, the more you risk bottoming out. Bottoming out is when a part of the underside of your vehicle scrapes the ground, and it can happen with potholes, speed bumps, or driving up a steep ramp. This can cause significant damage to machinery under your car (such as the oil pan and exhaust system.)
A flat tire could become a much bigger deal as standard jacks may not fit underneath lowered cars. Furthermore, ensure that lowering your vehicle doesn’t void a manufacturer’s warranty (and ensure that the manufacturer doesn’t advise against lowering your car).
Suspension lift kits are designed to raise your vehicle as high as possible, which comes with a host of considerations. Body lift kits are made to raise your car a few inches without too much effect on the ride itself.
For suspension lift kits, the biggest advantage is that you’re able to raise your vehicle a lot. It allows you to equip your vehicle with larger tires, which leads to extra ground clearance when off-roading. The larger tires themselves will also help when off-roading, as they increase your traction. All these benefits culminate in one simple advantage: raised vehicles look powerful.
Body lift kits bring your car up two or three inches, so the towering effect of suspension kits is not achieved. However, they are more affordable than suspension lift kits since you don’t need to replace your shocks. Body kits let you retain factory suspension geometry and alignment while giving your tires more clearance.
Towering vehicles look great, but don’t forget the potential annoyance that comes from hoisting yourself up and into the cab. You might be able to handle it but getting kids into the vehicle can quickly become a hassle.
Ongoing upkeep is also required for suspension lift kits; you’ll need to replace support pieces every so often. The original kit itself is also a bit pricey, and many can void manufacturer warranties, just like lowering your suspension.
For body lift kits, the most common complaint is that the frame is more visible after lifting. Due to the placement of the vehicle’s body, factory bumpers don’t get raised along with the rest of the vehicle. You can take care of this with gap guards, but that is another cost to tack on.
The other disadvantage of body lift kits is that—other than increased tire clearance—no performance advantages are offered. In fact, the raised center of gravity may lead to reduced performance and more risk of rollovers.
Modifying Your Car
Whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for lowering or raising your suspension is up to you. If you decide to join the others who feel that their vehicle isn’t at the right height, what might you do to change it?
To lower your car, you could shorten or soften your coil springs, re-bend your leaf springs, change the mounting points of your spring or torsion bar, or adjust the torsion bar key (for suspensions with torsion bars only, naturally). When lowering your car, consider adding an Integra traction bar to reduce the risk of flexing at the rear end of your vehicle.
Raising your car may sound like a simple matter with the purchase of a kit, but don’t install the kit yourself unless you’re very confident in your automotive ability. Ensuring alignment is retained is extremely important and not something to gamble with.
Armed with the advantages and disadvantages of lowering your suspension (and raising it, too), you can choose for yourself if it’s something you want to do. There’s no doubt about it: up or down, changing your vehicle’s height makes it look amazing.